BYU soccer will rise to the challenge again.
For the second year in a row, the Cougars and Real Salt Lake organized an exhibition game against the RSL reserves. Although this matchup is not foreign to either team, the difference this year is the opportunity for the teams to play at Rio Tinto Stadium.
The match is set to kick off Monday at 6:30 p.m.
The Cougars play in the Premiere Development League (PDL), a few tiers below MLS, and this opportunity serves as a chance for BYU players to play in a professional environment.
Public relations representative for BYU Soccer Ee Chien Chua said the players look forward to this game so they can really see what level to which they can compete. It serves as a measurement for their development.
"We're excited to play against Real once again," BYU head coach Chris Watkins said according to the BYU Soccer website. "It's a great opportunity for our players to learn from the professionals."
The game also serves a purpose for Real Salt Lake, giving reserve and injured players a chance to play in a competitive match.
"It's always good to get guys time in matches," RSL Media Services Manager Sam Stejskal said. "So to get some of the younger guys on the field, as well as some of the guys rehabbing from injury back on the field is certainly a benefit. But, to do it in our stadium against a local opponent like BYU is kind of the cherry on top."
There is a strong possibility RSL playmaker Javier Morales will highlight the reserve squad tonight. Morales is recovering from a preseason injury and made his 2013 Real Salt Lake premiere last Saturday against the Seattle Sounders. Morales is continually working to regain his fitness and make sure he is up to game speed as makes his return to the squad.
BYU striker Jonathon Junca, an offensive presence for the Cougars, will look to continue his development as a goal scorer. The RSL reserve backline will have their hands full with the speedy forward, who puts pressure on himself to score every night.
"Jon's an amazingly quick guy. He can get around defenders pretty well," Watkins said following the Cougars recent victory over Utah. "I think [his performance] takes a monkey off his back, because he thinks he should score three or four goals every game. That might not be realistic, but he really puts a lot of pressure on himself."
Real Salt Lake and Watkins have a close relationship, which makes organizing these events possible, Chua said.
Stejskal suggested organizing the match is fairly simple for RSL, since BYU is always eager for the opportunity.
"I think BYU is pretty easy (to coordinate with)," Stejskal said. "We've played them multiple times, so planning a match against them is usually not an issue at all."1 comment on this story
Playing Real Salt Lake is key for promoting BYU Soccer as they have very little funding from the University. Chua said the event helps immensely with promotion of the BYU team across the state.
BYU Soccer is coming off a massive 6-1 victory over the Utah Utes. The Cougars exploded after being tied at halftime, scoring five goals in the second half.
The Cougars will be looking for a winning result tonight after tying the RSL reserves 1-1 last year.
Whitney O'Bannon is a new media sports writer for the Deseret News.